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Material Witness

September 6, 2008
White Painting (seven panel) 1951 Robert Rauschenberg

White Painting (seven panel) 1951 Robert Rauschenberg

Rauschenberg described the new paintings as “large white (1 white as 1 GOD) canvases organized and selected with the experience of time and presented with the innocence of a virgin.” The young painter claimed that the works were filled with “the suspense, excitement and body of an organic silence, the restriction and freedom of absence, the plastic fullness of nothing, the point a circle begins and ends.”³ The reference to infinity was particularly resonant at a moment when Jackson Pollock was weaving his infinite allover webs, when everyone in New York was talking about James Joyce’s late works, especially Finnegans Wake, which ends as it begins. In his letter to Parsons, Rauschenberg continued: “It is completely irrelevant that I am making them—Today is their creater [sic].” This denial of individual ego predates Rauschenberg’s involvement with Zen through his relationship with John Cage. But it is likely that Rauschenberg became acquainted with Asian mysticism earlier at Black Mountain, where it was much in the air, although his interest in Zen clearly deepened once he met Cage.

Rauschenberg by Andy Warhol 1981

Rauschenberg by Andy Warhol 1981

From Material Witness: A Tribute to Robert Rauschenberg in Artforum with texts by Merce Cunningham, Barbara Rose and Branden W. Joseph, read full article.

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